That was one of the greatest series finales I have ever seen.
Despite a couple of mishaps in the first half of this season, Angel never forgot that it was always a show about its characters, often putting them through hell (sometimes literally) instead of letting the plot twists take over. Luckily, the past few episodes have seen the show return to its noir-form, culminating in a goosebumps-worthy ending that I don’t imagine I will ever forget.
But Not Fade Away is not just epic for its nail-biting ending; in fact, it’s one of the truest, pulse-pounding Angel episodes I’ve seen since the pilot. Gunn’s exchange with Anne (who returns for a shocking cameo, last seen in 2×14 The Thin Dead Line) is symbolic for everything Angel the series and Angel the character ever were (the quote itself is found below). It’s little moments like these that have always made a show about a vampire with a soul more humane and real than any other show on television. Granted, Gunn might be the least developed character on Angel (Lorne excluded, but we’ll get to that), but at least the writers stay true to this character in more ways than I could’ve imagined.
Then there’s Lorne. I’ll never understand why he joined the show full-time because this character was always better as comic relief and, quite frankly, he never really mixed with the dark and gritty aspects of this show properly. With that said, him shooting Lindsey to death is a terrific and jaw-dropping moment–again, it’s not a plot twist meant to reveal Lorne’s evil side; in fact, one of the last things our green demon says is that he’s going back to his old self. Killing Lindsey was more about Lindsey than it was about him as the previous Wolfram & Hart employee is more stunned than the rest of us that he dies in the hand of Lorne, of all people–err, creatures. It’s raw, stunning and without a doubt one of the most creative sendoffs I’ve seen on television.
I was skeptical about Wesley’s fate from the moment I started this finale. In a way, his death seems inevitable and slightly predictable, but it’s still heartbreaking to watch him and Illyria (who becomes Fred for him one last time) in each other’s arms. The goofy little Watcher from Buffy easily became one of my favorite characters in the Buffyverse, but his bittersweet tragic ending is still much more satisfying than, say, Cordelia’s entire existence on this show. My only complaint is that Illyria joined the season way too late, and I would have loved to see how she moves on after Wesley’s death (she does admit to feeling grief and heartbreak at the end).
Angel gets a pretty pulse-pounding fight sequence with Hamilton, who isn’t a very well-developed antagonist but still embodies everything that is evil: Wolfram & Hart. The fight scene itself is longer than usual and still manages to incorporate witty banter, a Joss Whedon signature. I was more impressed by how Angel eventually takes down the Big Bad by sucking away his powers (in a goosebumps-worthy moment where we see Vamp Angel for one last time), a brilliant and thematic move that brings everything together perfectly.
Finally, there’s that epic ending that everyone keeps talking about. I refuse to see that final scene as a ‘cliffhanger’ or a cop-out ending; in fact, it’s a fantastic way to bring the show’s mythology to a bone-chilling finish. We take away from it whatever we want, even if it might actually leave us hanging, but at least we’re left knowing that Angel Investigations will always be fighting the good fight. The new team prepares to take on a dragon and more than a dozen of demons and unearthly creatures–it might be a fight they know they’re not coming out of alive, but it’s a fight worth taking. Leaving the conclusion up to the viewer’s imagination is the most powerful way to bookend this flawed yet always-fully-realized show, and if there’s anything I’ll miss the most about the Buffyverse as a whole, it’s that it never ceased to keep me on my toes while leaving me to interpret things on my own.
Thank you, Whedon, for creating a universe so ugly and beautiful. I’ll miss it terribly.
– Harmony betraying Angel is hilarious and, again, very true to her character. I’m so glad she makes it out of Wolfram & Hart alive.
– Eve is still the worst, but how about that ending? Angel tells her that Lindsey won’t be coming back for her and then the building literally starts to crumble and collapse onto her.
– Spike was terrific in the finale. His fight scene while holding the baby was mighty amusing, and I’m sad to admit that I’ll actually miss him a lot more than I expected.
– Spike’s poem is actually the same one used in the Buffy episode Fool For Love. Nice continuity there.
– To make myself feel better, I will pretend that Wesley and Fred are in the same ‘heaven’ that Buffy was in befoe Willow brought her back in season six. You do the same if these deaths still bring you to tears.
– I thought the Connor-centric episode was a fitting closure to his entire storyline, but I still didn’t mind seeing him in the finale. His transformation is truly amazing. It’s sad we only got to see a horrible side of him last season.
– Chilling moment with Fred turning into Illyria and punching the demon in the face to death. Wow!
– Shortly after the finale aired, The WB aired a “Thank you for watching” video that honestly gave me goosebumps. You can watch it here.
– Despite its slow start, season five really turned out to be a great season. The Angelus/Faith and Gina Torres’ arcs in season four make it much more riveting, but there’s no denying the past few episodes were badass.
Wesley: The first lesson a watcher learns is to separate truth from illusion. Because in the world of magics, it’s the hardest thing to do. The truth is that Fred is gone. To pretend anything else would be a lie. And since I don’t actually intend to die tonight, I won’t accept a lie.
(Gunn is helping Anne pack stuff for the shelter into a truck)
Gunn: What if I told you it doesn’t help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it’s all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?
Anne: I’d get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here.
Wesley: There is no perfect day for me, Illyria. There is no sunset or painting or finely-aged scotch that’s going to sum up my life and make tonight any… There is nothing that I want.
Angel: I want you, Lindsey. (pause) I’m thinking about rephrasing that.
Spike: First off, I’m not wearing any amulets, no bracelets, broaches, beads, pendants, pins, or rings.
Angel: I knew you’d turn on me. I just didn’t know when.
Harmony: What do you mean you knew?
Angel: Loyalty really isn’t high on your list.
Harmony: Oh, is that right? I’ll have you know I am damn loyal, dumbass.
Angel: You betrayed me. You are betraying me now, even as we are talking!
Harmony: Because you never have any confidence in me!
Angel: No, because you have no soul.
Harmony: I would, if you had confidence in me!
Connor: Come on. You drop by for a cup of coffee, and the world’s not ending? Please.
Lindsey (to Lorne): You kill me? A flunky? I’m not just… Angel…kills me. You don’t… Angel…
Illyria: Would you like me to lie to you now?
Wesley: Yes. (closes his eyes in a slow, pained blink) Thank you. Yes. (opens his eyes and sees Fred)
Fred (smiling through her tears): Oh, Wesley. My Wesley.
Wesley: Fred… I’ve missed you.
Fred (kisses him): It’s gonna be ok. It won’t hurt much longer, and then you’ll be where I am. (crying) We’ll be together.
Wesley: I-I love you.
Fred: I love you. My love. Oh, my love.
Gunn: You take the thirty thousand on the left.
Spike: And in terms of a plan?
Angel: We fight.
Spike: Bit more specific?
Angel: Well, personally? I kind of wanna slay the dragon.
Angel: Let’s go to work.